TomTom Go 720 vs Garmin nüvi 255

Time for toy shopping. I’ve been looking into buying a GPS for awhile. My first instinct was to look into what Garmin had to offer. Why Garmin? Well I actually couldn’t find anyone who owned a TomTom to ask them about their experience.

Tom Tom Home Page and Box

So off to the big box electronic store. We were going on a road trip the next day, so we went up to a mid-range Garmin and an equivalent TomTom and entered in our destination. Right away there was a clear winner – TomTom.


In order to enter an address on the Garmin, you first enter a city, and after a few letters, it proposed a choice of cities. So far, so good – it proposed our destination city. For some reason, entering streets is not so easy. One would assume that the same predictive approach would be used. In fact, it isn’t. You need to actually enter the first few letters, and press ok. If it finds something, it will prompt you, if not its has you try again. The Garmin had no trouble finding the city of Sherbrooke, but, when you try to find Du Conseil street, if fails. I tried the following permutations:

  • Du C
  • Du Con
  • Du Cons
  • Duc
  • DuCon

In fact, the only way to find it, is to enter Cons, and press ok. This finally will result in a result of Du Conseil. This is not a great user experience.

The TomTom was very nimble in predicting both the street names and the city. In fact it used the same predictive approach for both city and street name.

Fast forward a few weeks, and its time to buy a GPS. I am suffering from a bad case of shopper paralysis, as I am in a constant debate over features and price. I happened upon a great deal at Walmart for a Garmin nüvi 255 at $168, my rationale being to start with a base model and figure out my needs from there. I was comforted in the high rating on Amazon.com and ConsumerReports.org. It was returned inside of four days. Why did the Garmin fail out?

  1. It found a local address, inside of 10 km fine.
  2. When entering an address 30 km east, the Garmin indicated a route that took me west on the closest highway, then doubled back, exited highway to loop around a roundabout, then merged back on to follow an appropriate path.
  3. Tried an address on a private road just off a rural highway, and the Garmin only returned the directions to the main street of the town.
  4. Attempted to find an out of province address on the north part of a street, and it insisted that the house was on the south part.

So it failed on two tests out of four, and was erratic on one of the two “successes”.

So I went out and bought a TomTom Go 720 which was only $30 more than the Garmin. We put the TomTom through the same tests as the Garmin. It returned the proper directions on all four test destinations, plus it got the directions to the address in Sherbrooke right.

Tom Tom Go 720 GPS

Time for a road test. The Tom Tom Home software allowed for the trip planning and the setting of Favourites. The Go 720 quickly calculated the paths, reacted swiftly to course changes and found POIs with ease. In contrast, my new iPhone 3GS provided similar performance in large urban areas as the 720, but the 720 excelled in finding POIs in small towns and country roads. For now, phone based GPS is convenient in large metropolitan areas, but a true standalone GPS device is by far the most reliable solution.

With a handy USB dock, car charger and car base included, the TomTom Go 720 offers a wide screen, with an easy to use interface and handy customizations.

Tom Tom 720 GPS Base

In conclusion, the TomTom Go 720 offers a GPS unit that provides accurate directions, updatable maps, crowd-sourced map correction, celebrity voice downloads, itineraries based on actual travel times (as opposed to times based on the posted limit).

25 comments

  1. While i agree that you made the right choice in going with the TomTom unit (even though you missed the best feature : customized voices including one that sounds like a porno actress), i do not understand WHY you bought one in the first place when you already have a better GPS device : the iPhone 3GS.

    TomTom has announced they will be selling their TomTom application for the iPhone this year with a really nice car holder/charger for the iPhone. What should also be mentioned is that your TomTom Go 720 lacks a digital compass so when you’re in a parking somewhere and you give it a destination, it will give you bogus voice directions as it has NO Clue what so ever in what direction your car is currently aligned and trust me, that’s no fun.

    The iPhone 3GS does have the said digital compass which makes it a better and cheaper choice once the TomTom application will go on sale. Also, keep in mind, the TomTom app will use local stored maps as well as LIVE features like Traffic info which the TomTom go 720 can only obtain by leeching off the Bluetooth signal off a supported phone.

    All in all, i think you would have been better off with your iPhone + TomTom app w/ car holder.

    Adi

  2. While i agree that you made the right choice in going with the TomTom unit (even though you missed the best feature : customized voices including one that sounds like a porno actress), i do not understand WHY you bought one in the first place when you already have a better GPS device : the iPhone 3GS.

    TomTom has announced they will be selling their TomTom application for the iPhone this year with a really nice car holder/charger for the iPhone. What should also be mentioned is that your TomTom Go 720 lacks a digital compass so when you’re in a parking somewhere and you give it a destination, it will give you bogus voice directions as it has NO Clue what so ever in what direction your car is currently aligned and trust me, that’s no fun.

    The iPhone 3GS does have the said digital compass which makes it a better and cheaper choice once the TomTom application will go on sale. Also, keep in mind, the TomTom app will use local stored maps as well as LIVE features like Traffic info which the TomTom go 720 can only obtain by leeching off the Bluetooth signal off a supported phone.

    All in all, i think you would have been better off with your iPhone + TomTom app w/ car holder.

    Adi

  3. Adi,

    Do you know if the iPhone’s GPS will work when there is no wireless coverage from the carrier. The GPS on the Storm is dependent on the carrier coverage, no coverage == no location == no maps. And you really don’t have to go too far out of the urban areas for this to be an issue, just north of Montebello, near Ottawa and just across the border into Vermont and northern Maine. I also found that the phone GPS devices always need to download the maps. There is something to be said about having maps available off line.

  4. Adi,

    Do you know if the iPhone’s GPS will work when there is no wireless coverage from the carrier. The GPS on the Storm is dependent on the carrier coverage, no coverage == no location == no maps. And you really don’t have to go too far out of the urban areas for this to be an issue, just north of Montebello, near Ottawa and just across the border into Vermont and northern Maine. I also found that the phone GPS devices always need to download the maps. There is something to be said about having maps available off line.

  5. I wanted to have a GPS unit that the family could use, as I carry my phone with me everywhere. As for the parking scenario, the Tom Tom will remember its last location and plan a route based on that. The flaw in that is the drive to the subway, turn off the GPS, take the subway across town and ask for directions without getting a signal scenario.

    Where the iPhone falls short in its current GPS implementation is in its reliance on Google (yeah I said it) Maps. Google Maps rocks in large metro areas, but for some reason either has old or inaccurate info for small or remote communities.

    The Tom Tom iPhone app is totally on my radar, and assuming it is not a bigillion dollars, will find itself on my iPhone on release day.

  6. I wanted to have a GPS unit that the family could use, as I carry my phone with me everywhere. As for the parking scenario, the Tom Tom will remember its last location and plan a route based on that. The flaw in that is the drive to the subway, turn off the GPS, take the subway across town and ask for directions without getting a signal scenario.

    Where the iPhone falls short in its current GPS implementation is in its reliance on Google (yeah I said it) Maps. Google Maps rocks in large metro areas, but for some reason either has old or inaccurate info for small or remote communities.

    The Tom Tom iPhone app is totally on my radar, and assuming it is not a bigillion dollars, will find itself on my iPhone on release day.

  7. Guys,

    People who already have an iPhone (but not the new model), such as myself, are hard pressed to buy a new iPhone @ $300 and deal with selling the old one vs. grabbing a $150 720.

    Another thing: tried reading the iPhone with polarized sunglasses in while it’s on its side? 😉 I happen to wear sunglasses when I drive and it’s bright out…

    Will there be mac-based software comparable to what TomTom currently offers?

    I love my 3G but will pick up a 720 for now.

  8. Guys,

    People who already have an iPhone (but not the new model), such as myself, are hard pressed to buy a new iPhone @ $300 and deal with selling the old one vs. grabbing a $150 720.

    Another thing: tried reading the iPhone with polarized sunglasses in while it’s on its side? 😉 I happen to wear sunglasses when I drive and it’s bright out…

    Will there be mac-based software comparable to what TomTom currently offers?

    I love my 3G but will pick up a 720 for now.

  9. Hi Andrew thanks for the feedback!

    IMO the upgrade from 3G to 3GS is not for everyone. In my case I went with a 3GS as by Blackberry died. I strongly considered saving some coin and getting the deeply discounted 3G, but 2 things stopped me:

    1. Turn by turn directions
    2. Voice control

    My Serengeti Drivers are polarized, and I can’t detect any difference on my 3GS between landscape and portrait. Maybe the glass is different?

    As for the software, TomTom offers the TomTom Home software for PC and Mac. I have no exposure to the PC version, but am satisfied with the Mac offering (15″ Macbook Pro running current release of Leopard).

    If you are referring to the TomTom iPhone application, it is not yet released, but is on my radar and will be the subject of an upcoming post (once I get my hands on it).

    Thanks for reading!

  10. Hi Andrew thanks for the feedback!

    IMO the upgrade from 3G to 3GS is not for everyone. In my case I went with a 3GS as by Blackberry died. I strongly considered saving some coin and getting the deeply discounted 3G, but 2 things stopped me:

    1. Turn by turn directions
    2. Voice control

    My Serengeti Drivers are polarized, and I can’t detect any difference on my 3GS between landscape and portrait. Maybe the glass is different?

    As for the software, TomTom offers the TomTom Home software for PC and Mac. I have no exposure to the PC version, but am satisfied with the Mac offering (15″ Macbook Pro running current release of Leopard).

    If you are referring to the TomTom iPhone application, it is not yet released, but is on my radar and will be the subject of an upcoming post (once I get my hands on it).

    Thanks for reading!

  11. Hey !
    I also looked at both the TomTom & the Garmin. My first purchase was the TomTom 330S due to the good reviews from the net. I liked the the TomTom home & immediate download to update the map. ” But ” the routing…for me was terrible. To go to a store on a major thoroughfare, the TT took me through the neighborhood ( right/left/left/right etc. to hit a major Road , which BTW I could have taken 8 minutes from my house. Also, every time I took a route which I new was simpler and faster the TT kept ( for at least 1/4 mile) telling me to make a U turn and get back onto it's routing. Also, the re-routing time took almost 2 minutes before it gave me a new route. Very irritating, not to mention that the TT 330S has no SD card, which became important to me as I was talking to a former TT owner and he told me after downloading a few maps, he had to delete the voice software to make room to download the latest map.
    I returned it for a Garmin 255W, knowing that Navteq could re-route and find a better more direct route than the TomTom.
    Well….
    So, here I am now with the Garmin and It does route and re-route much better than the TT. BUT .. the maps are cartoonish, there is a shortage of information compared to the TT. And, the voice sounds as if it was recorded through a felt hat. To input address location is as one of the previewers said difficult, especially when ” on the move “. The Garmin , also when turned of and then on, defaults to Kansas and I live in Florida.
    ( if only TomTom used NavTeq )
    I am a Sat home installer and need a good simple GPS since I am routed to 3 to 4 homes a day 6 days a week. I see no reason to pay over $130.00 for a good GPS. I have no reason to use the GPS as a mp3 player or picture viewer or anything other than a GPS.
    At this time I do not know which way I will jump. if the tomtom 330S had a SD card…then.but it doesn't.
    I need a drink.
    Thanks for “listening”
    Jeff
    Jeff Hedden

  12. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for reading and for joining the discussion!

    Now my article is a little slanted as I compared a lower end Garmin to a higher end TomTom. The reason I didn't compare the model you are considering is simply the economics of the moment, the TomTom was reduced to mere dollars above the price of the 330 series.

    I hear you when you say that the TomTom tries to get you to resume its planned route. One would assume that the suggested route is going to be followed, since you bothered to request it from the device. I have often decided to abort as i found a more scenic drive. it does have a certain tolerance, and will eventually key in that you are ignoring it and will recalculate based on your new heading.

    I would also pay attention to the walk/cycle/drive settings, as well as the shortest path vs the quickest path. These settings make huge differences in plotting your course.

    One great feature of the TomTom is that it will allow you to plan a trip on your Mac (pc?) and will use crowdsourced data for actual speeds on the roads you will take. So in effect, it may or may not use certain streets based on the actual average speeds at various times of the day.

    Keep reading and jump back in to the comments anytime.

    We often talk about GPS devices, both dedicated or iPhone (smartphone based) on our PodCast, so check us out either on 2fatdads.com or look us up in the iTunes store (free podcast!).

    As a final note, I would still get a GPS from the TomTom family, as entering the new destination is so much easier, and it sounds to me that you have 42 of these a week, every week.

    Let us know what you chose and how its working out for you.

  13. Thanks for the reply, I was pleasantly surprised.
    I am leaning toward going back to the TomTomXL 330s except for :
    “as I was talking to a former TT owner and he told me after downloading a few maps, he had to delete the voice software to make room to download the latest map.”

    Do you know anything regarding this statement ?

    Thanks again ,
    Jeff

  14. These devices have limited memory, so adding additional voices or maps will
    chew up space. Normally they come with maps that are regionally appropriate
    (i.e. Continental North America, Western Europe, specific countries, …).

    In my case, I have maps for USA and protectorates, and Canada. If i wanted
    to add maps for a specific city I would have room. If I decided to add maps
    for Western Europe I would have to choose between wiping out North America
    in favour of my travel destination (I know, it sounds ominous). I also have
    the option of using the SD card slot to hold the extra maps on removable
    media. I haven't actually gone through this excerise, and will post an
    update once I have.

    I know for a fact that Garmin's GPS devices have the same space limitation.
    I don't think it should be a limiting concern in picking either a TomTom or
    a Garmin. To give you an idea for space, the TomTom iPhone application takes
    well over 1 GB of room, mostly map information.

    Will you be needing much headroom for new maps in your day to day? Or is the
    person you were talking with pushing the boundaries of is device.

  15. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for reading and for joining the discussion!

    Now my article is a little slanted as I compared a lower end Garmin to a higher end TomTom. The reason I didn't compare the model you are considering is simply the economics of the moment, the TomTom was reduced to mere dollars above the price of the 330 series.

    I hear you when you say that the TomTom tries to get you to resume its planned route. One would assume that the suggested route is going to be followed, since you bothered to request it from the device. I have often decided to abort as i found a more scenic drive. it does have a certain tolerance, and will eventually key in that you are ignoring it and will recalculate based on your new heading.

    I would also pay attention to the walk/cycle/drive settings, as well as the shortest path vs the quickest path. These settings make huge differences in plotting your course.

    One great feature of the TomTom is that it will allow you to plan a trip on your Mac (pc?) and will use crowdsourced data for actual speeds on the roads you will take. So in effect, it may or may not use certain streets based on the actual average speeds at various times of the day.

    Keep reading and jump back in to the comments anytime.

    We often talk about GPS devices, both dedicated or iPhone (smartphone based) on our PodCast, so check us out either on 2fatdads.com or look us up in the iTunes store (free podcast!).

    As a final note, I would still get a GPS from the TomTom family, as entering the new destination is so much easier, and it sounds to me that you have 42 of these a week, every week.

    Let us know what you chose and how its working out for you.

  16. Thanks for the reply, I was pleasantly surprised.
    I am leaning toward going back to the TomTomXL 330s except for :
    “as I was talking to a former TT owner and he told me after downloading a few maps, he had to delete the voice software to make room to download the latest map.”

    Do you know anything regarding this statement ?

    Thanks again ,
    Jeff

  17. These devices have limited memory, so adding additional voices or maps will
    chew up space. Normally they come with maps that are regionally appropriate
    (i.e. Continental North America, Western Europe, specific countries, …).

    In my case, I have maps for USA and protectorates, and Canada. If i wanted
    to add maps for a specific city I would have room. If I decided to add maps
    for Western Europe I would have to choose between wiping out North America
    in favour of my travel destination (I know, it sounds ominous). I also have
    the option of using the SD card slot to hold the extra maps on removable
    media. I haven't actually gone through this excerise, and will post an
    update once I have.

    I know for a fact that Garmin's GPS devices have the same space limitation.
    I don't think it should be a limiting concern in picking either a TomTom or
    a Garmin. To give you an idea for space, the TomTom iPhone application takes
    well over 1 GB of room, mostly map information.

    Will you be needing much headroom for new maps in your day to day? Or is the
    person you were talking with pushing the boundaries of is device.

  18. How does the TomTom 720 go if you only have a Street name and no City.
    I have a TomTom XL 340 and when I needed to go to a road in a country area, I tried to input the street but did not know the area.
    Impossible to even guess the city (as it was in the middle of Woop Woop) so couldn't use GPS at all. Eventually got Lat and Long from google maps to get to the location. Sort of defeats the purpose I think.
    Had a Navigon 3300 (prior to this) which would give a selection of cities to choose from so at least if you had a general notion you were in with a chance. Only changed because the Navigon's speaker was dreadful.
    Apart from this (which is a pretty big deal breaker) and the facility for postcode input which doesn't appear to work in Australia (only tried it for a laugh, don't think I would ever really need to use it) I think the XL 340 has performed pretty admirably.

  19. Hi Randy,

    Thanks for reading and great question!

    The TomTom Go 720 provides multiple options for selecting a destination. Most common are address based (city centre, street and house number, postcode and crossing or intersection). All of these, with the exception postal code require the city to be entered first, which is of no use to you.

    On the second page on the “Navigate To” screens you can find the options to “My Location”, “Point on map”, and “Latitude and Longitude”. I realise that this last option has already been used, and is not a favourite of yours, but why not use a combination of “Point on Map” and “My location”. These seem likely options if you a have a general idea of your intended destination, or are entirely turned around, want to find out where you are, and decide that you want to go somewhere vaguely close to a known geographic location.

    As for entering “Main Street” and hoping it will tell you where the 12 closest Main streets are, I fear you are out of luck with the TomTom.

    I’ll be posting shortly a review of Mapquest’s latest turn by turn attempt for the iPhone in the near future.

    Please feel free to post any follow up questions, and keep on reading. While you’re at it, tell a friend about us. If you have any GPS or technology related questions or topics, drop us a line or tweet me at @mtl_steve

  20. Hey there guys, read this blog and had to post my experience….relates mostly to jeff's comment with the TomTom XL 330s vs. Garmin Nuvi 255w/

    I wanted a new gps unit resonalbly priced and found these 2 at bestbuy for TT-$99 and Gamin-$129. So having a good return policy I bought them both with the intention of returning the one i liked the least, attached them to my windshield and started driving (I live in Southern Ontario, Canada)

    After 2 weeks of driving around between windsor and ottawa with them side by side….this is what ive found.

    The TT looks like a real map, that has interchangable color skemes for both its day and night settings, the garmin looks like a cartoon map and has no options for either day or night settings.
    The TT allows for onscreen display of speed/speed limits, time, arrival time, distance remaining, time remaining, direction co-ordinates the list goes on…..and the Garmin shows me speed and arrival time, that's it and you can't turn it off or on.
    The TT allows me to edit my own maps to reflect road changes, the garmin does not.
    The TT's interface for navigation to address's is much faster and finds streets quicker than the garmin.
    The TT's display's POI categories I select on the map, the garmin does not…..its nice to know where a gas station is without having to look anything up.
    The TT to date has not made me go around the block, the garmin seems to like this method of reaching places.
    The TT has been 99% pinpoint accurate with landing me at the doorstep to my destination, the garmin has 90% of the time been telling me to continue up the road anywhere from 200-500 meters, when im right out front.
    The TT had accurate early turn arrows, the garmin would occasionally show left on the turn arrow but right on the map.
    The TT had a very clear and loud speaker for hearing the text to talk, the garmin sounded grainy and muffled.

    Now I only drive in North America, and only need the US Canada map, so im good on memory and don't require a SD slot, I have a camera and laptops and have no need of a picture viewer option, i find this a silly thing to add to a gps and am unsure why you would require it.

    Garmin did come out on top in a few catorgies, it had 6 default text 2 talk voices and the TT only had 2. Not really a big deal, since the garmin speaker was so poor it was difficult to understand the foreign accents anyhow. The other thing Garmin did better was the initial connection. It always found a SAT link in a few seconds, the TT sometimes took up to 30 secs.

    All that said, whew, as an admitted Electronics Junkie, I would recommend the TT hands down over the Garmin. It may take you a little longer to get it setup the way you want, due to the massive list of options, but its well worth it and it was always more accurate to the doorstep, and the map was so much nicer looking that I found I stopped looking at the garmin.

    I would only recommend a Garmin to someone who is completely inept at anything electronic, it is the inferior product, but its ease of learning, due to its lack of options, and its picture viewer, which somepeople deem important, although nobody's ever shown me there photo collection on gps before….

    I am taking the Garmin back tomorrow and have become a proud owner of a TomTom XL 330 S

    Thanks for listning..

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  22. I own a TomTom One (bought in 2007) and I never experienced a similar situation. Yes, it takes some time to recalculate a new direction especially in narrow streets but it recover within a minute or two at the worse.

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  24. This GPS had nice features on paper… and at first, I was keen on Tom Tom’s layout, that displayed more info on the main screen than Garmin’s or Magellan’s … 

    But the features didn’t really measure up to the hype once put to the test in everyday use ; IQ routes don’t really have any visible effect on the courses it plots… sending you right into the heart of daily traffic gridlock time and again… (I’m in Montreal so there has to be at least a few people that own Tom Tom’s and could have added to the IQ route technology … Enough to know the Metropolitan boulevard is to be avoided at all costs… No??)

    Plus the other gizmo’s, such as FM transmitter… They work, but only give you the equivalent of a.m. / static laced sound… 

    Another shortcoming was the difficulty to scroll ahead on the map…. Garmin allows you to touch and move ahead in 2d map view… Tom Tom requires you to go through many steps to do the same…

    Then the length of time required to find satellites… Horrible : 4 minutes was regular…

    I even downplayed the time I was going to a hospital with a friend who’s son was not feeling well at all… I thought I knew where to turn, but decided to trust my Tom Tom and follow it’s directions… Only to end up on the wrong side of a dead end street in St-Jerome (a street that judging from appearances, must have had the same configuration for at least the last 10 years … thus not due to a recent change) The maps simply did not seem up to date, and this regardless of the fact that they were supposed to be up to date. OK it turned out not to be that urgent, but I can imagine how such a blunder could have major consequences…

    But the killer, was the lack of service and just plain indifference of Tom Tom’s customer support… One detail that had initially seemed just ”slightly annoying” was the suction cup mounting… It was always falling off… Even though the windows were cleaned regularly it just would not stick…. (I had never had this problem when borrowing my dad’s Garmin.) But about 10 months after buying my Go720 I go through the ritual of picking it off the car’s floor, and was astonished to see the screen had cracked (star shaped fracture)  It must have hit either the hand brake lever, or the speed shifter… I never even thought that a fall from such a small height, as off the dash to the floor could cause it to break…  Anyway the unit’s toast / useless…

    I call Tom Tom after reading numerous reviews commenting on the poor quality of the mounting bracket / units falling to the floor etc…  As well as Tom Tom’s subsequent change to try and improve they’re design flaw. 

    I was hoping they would either fix it / exchange it for a refurbished unit… I don’t know… Something : They’re only proposition… Would you like to shell out another +/- 400$ to buy a new one ? (normal price at that time….) After only 10 months use, with one free map upgrade left, I end up with a useless GPS, and they were not willing to do squat…

    NEVER NEVER NEVER will I be suckered into dealing with a company that has NO respect for it’s clients… I bought the product, they make a poor design and because of it I’m out in the cold, and they honestly expect me to just go out and buy another one from them ?!?

    I just bought a new Garmin unit… In a few years I predict Tom Tom will be out of business, and guess what… They deserve no less…

    Score :  Unit as such  4 / 10  
             Satisfaction  0 / 10
             Telling Tom Tom to stick it… Priceless !!

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